Thread Theory

Welcome to the new era of menswear sewing. Go ahead and create something exceptional!


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Embracing Change

I shed a few grateful tears the other day when I first opened up the early results of our survey. Hundreds of you have not only taken the time to answer the basic survey questions, but you’ve also written beautiful paragraphs of encouragement and support. When I made up the survey I was only hoping to receive some concrete opinions and perhaps a little enthusiasm to help launch me into the initial design phase for our next batch of patterns. Instead, I received that plus so much more. Even though I thought I was keeping my insecurities and concerns to myself, so many of you are perpceptive or have perhaps walked a similar path before. You took a big nebulous cloud of unexamined fears and anxiety, named it all for me and then showed me how to move on. Thank you!

Here are a few of the comments that I am just so grateful for:

“I really value the work you’re doing. I know balancing work & family needs is a real challenge. The challenges don’t go away – they change as everyone gets older – kids, parents, & you. But so do the rewards ( or maybe out standards drop 😉). Hang in there. Trust your gut. You got this.”

“Thank you for some lovely patterns, superb instructions, helpful sew alongs and tutorials. I sew these patterns again and again because they produce well fitting, beautiful and hardwearing garments. I love the details and finishes, the henley placket and the cuffs of the Strathcona, the hood lining of the Finlayson being smaller than the hood which gives a lovely fold back finish. The welt pockets excellent instructions of the Belvedere waistcoat and all the tips in the online sew along.”

“Keep up the amazing work! As a male sewist there isn’t much out there that I get to make for myself, and finding your site years ago was what made me brave enough to try making clothes for myself.”

“I also live in BC and have a small acreage, so I really love the updates to your blog about your property, even though they have nothing to with sewing!”

 

Some of you were concerned that I plan to depart from menswear design entirely. Don’t worry, menswear patterns will remain the main focus for Thread Theory. I only seek to refresh and envigorate myself by approaching things from a slightly different direction for a while.

The survey results are still streaming in steadily and I have a lot of thinking yet to do so it is far too early to say what my plans will be for this shift of focus. In the meantime, your outpouring of understanding has made me feel so much more connected to the sewing community and, as a result, I am newly eager to get designing!

 

Another unanticipated outcome from the survey results is that I am now clear that many of you have been enjoying my homesteading blog posts. In the “Any other comments?” answer box at the end of the survey, person after person wrote that they have been enjoying these posts and hope I keep writing them. Wow! I had considered stopping them as I suspected they were tolerated at best…I’m glad to hear that isn’t the case! I really enjoy writing about our new lifestyle and will continue with much more confidence now. With that in mind, here is a little peek into our long post-Christmas winter days:

While driving Noah into the little town nearest us earlier this week (we attend an action packed toddler group at the local community hall) he fell asleep when only minutes away from home. He’s usually only napping in the afternoon now but has had at least four teeth coming in over the last few days so that wore him out enough to fall asleep as early as 9:30 in the morning. Rather than wake him I decided to just keep on driving and head 45 minutes south to a big menswear retail chain to do a little RTW research for Thread Theory. Once Noah woke we headed into the shop and he pushed a buggy (he just won’t sit in it lately!) while I looked at pocket details, fabric choices, fit differences between brands and all of the other details that serve as inspiration when I am beginning new designs. I plan to draw up some techical illustrations and start a mood board while Matt and Noah are at their swimming lesson this Sunday. After that, I’ll mull over the construction process in an attempt to create a garment that is a pleasure to sew. This will invariably lead to a number of design changes after which the pattern can be drafted…and onwards the process will go!

These late winter days are an excellent time of year to dig into design work as, although my seed starting station is partially set up, only peppers and celeriac have been sown and the rest must wait until closer to the last frost date. Outdoors the landscape has been covered with frost, snow, or, for the majority of the time, puddles and mud. We have been working at pruning (Matt has taken on the dwarf fruit trees while I’m working on ornamentals and blueberries) but the soil itself is still far too wet to do all that much. This is changing quickly though! This weekend I’m going to do some weeding during nap time as I’ve noticed the weeds have suddenly taken off in the herb bed. That way I’ll be ready to order a big load of mulch to unload over the freshly tidied beds when my parents visit next weekend.

In the meantime though, the evenings are still dark and long so I can work away indoors on pattern development once Noah has been put to bed (ahem…on the nights I have energy to work, that is!).

Another wintery sort of project we have taken on of late is a general shift and tidy of some of our living spaces. We spent two evenings last week as ‘date’ nights. We headed out to our workshop to put on music and tidy and hang tools and create storage systems. After that little bit of effort the workshop is so much more useable! Our house has received the same treatment. We moved all of my sewing equipment and office station to the main floor of our house. Now we have lived here for almost a year (as of this coming March), our daily rythym has taken shape and it has become clear that our lovely second floor studio with windows overlooking the property and a balcony to off one side will just not be used! The nursury is directly across from this room…and I only work when Noah is sleeping! Sewing, typing, and creaking floor boards interfere too much with his sleep.

Thus, the studio will now become our inventory and shipping station. This is just as well because we have another restock of 3000 tissue patterns arriving next week! Matt and his dad are spending the weekend building some sturdy wooden shelving to hold the inventory. Up until this point, our tissue pattern boxes have been piled high in our second floor landing which I would really like to clear up to make into a craft and play room.

My sewing station is now in our sunroom (the very furthest possible point from Noah’s room) and it is a great little corner in which to work. It needs some major work setting it up but it is functional for now and I love that I don’t feel too secluded but it isn’t in anyone’s way (though I have to pack my things up each time I sew so that the power cord and ironing board are not a hazard). I like that Noah can see my work station constantly so he will grow up very aware of what I do for work. Earlier this week we sewed together for the very first time. He plays with my sewing machine knobs quite regularly but, until now, I had never plugged the machine in to show him how it works. He sat in my lap with wide eyes while I sewed him a big pillow for his room. He had a blast stuffing it with me and ran to the sewing machine the next day when I mentioned I had more pillows that I wanted to make.

Outside of studio projects, we have a number of other developments going on this winter on our homestead. Since my Fall post, Matt and my dad have felled, limbed, bucked, and split all of the trees I had intended to hire an arborist to deal with! My dad bought a tractor and has made a new road through one section of the property.

The two of them also re-roofed the chicken coop to combat a frustrating rat problem due to the poor design of the original roof. With the rats long gone, our chickens are happy and have been laying eggs daily all winter long! Our two roosters get along famously and I’ve never once seen them fight. We definitely need at least two more hens though (more likely, three or four!) as Noah eats a lot of eggs and our rooster to hen ratio is still way off.

As winter draws to a close we will be tackling a large rainwater collection and irrigation project. I only had a small veggie garden last year and even then our well was more or less dry mid-summner. I have big garden plans for this summer so a huge rainwater cistern will be essential to irrigate the vegetable bed and orchard. We will be purchasing a 3000 gallon water tank shortly to install by the workshop that we roofed with metal last summer. Once we add gutters to the shop it will collect the rain and a drip system will run from the tank to both garden areas. My past gardens have always suffered mid-summer as I become more and more stingy with water. I hope a timer system and efficient drip tape will lead to happy and healthy plants, all while using the rainwater that is readily available to us throughout a West Coast spring!

To finish up this update with a touch more Thread Theory news: Our next pattern is inching closer and closer to the test sewing stage. Now that the initial sample is sewn, instructions are written and all design details are finalized, it is currently being graded. Next, Matt will format the PDF pattern while I get started on illustrations. I think I will leave the bulk of the illustrations until after I receive the test sewer feedback. We did this for the first time with our Qualicum Bag pattern and it worked very well. Since test sewers only had my written instructions to go by (no images), it really put the clarity of my writing to the test. It was also easier to change construction order and methods as per the tester feedback because I did not have to redo all of the diagrams to reflect the changes.

Anyways, thank you, once again, for the unexpected support and encouragement that you gave me through the survey. You’ve shown me how to embrace this phase of life that I am in and have made it clear that changes of pace and lifestyle should be embraced rather than resisted. I’ll be back with another post when the giveaway winner is announced on February 15th! In the meantime, head here to enter the giveaway, and head here to complete the survey.

 


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Future of Thread Theory – please take our survey

[Edited Jan 31st to add: I neglected to add a contact info form to the survey so I’ve changed the $50 gift card draw into a general giveaway. To enter, comment on today’s blog post. Thank you for the overwhelming response to our survey! I’m just thrilled with your thoughtful answers!]

For years now I’ve received requests to design ‘menswear inspired’ women’s patterns, women’s workwear patterns and boys/teen patterns. These ideas all intrigue me greatly but I’ve more or less refrained as I wanted to make sure that justice was done to our primary focus of menswear first. Sewists have been waiting too long for contemporary menswear pattern designs so I’m glad that we’ve filled that niche with a good solid base of West Coast casual garments!

The very first photo we ever took of a Thread Theory Design! Taken in early spring, 2013.

Now that we have 14 menswear garment patterns in our shop that we are very proud of in addition to two special release women’s designs (launched on past Thread Theory anniversaries to thank our predominantly female customer base), and two gender neutral accessory patterns, I feel ready to consider branching out. After all, we have stayed on a fairly focused trajectory since we first registered our business in Dec. 2012 – we had only one burning dream: Make it possible for sewists to make the same sort of menswear they would buy from a shop!

Our website as a newborn when it first launched in 2013.

At first we focused completely on designing our own patterns, we then started carrying kits and tools to make menswear projects more enjoyable to sew. We next forayed into menswear fabrics for a couple of years. We then scaled back on tools and cut out fabric completely (our new homestead doesn’t have the studio space necessary for fabric sales and I don’t have the toddler-free time necessary for frequent product photoshoots!) and shifted our focus back to patterns – this time adding many other amazing indie menswear designers to our shop. While I’ve greatly enjoyed this menswear focused journey, it’s just really starting to feel time to refresh. I don’t know what that will mean yet but perhaps you do!

I am just about to begin the design process for a new batch of patterns – I tend to design in batches of 4 – so I thought this could be a neat opportunity to hear from you on the matter! Should I make this next batch all menswear? Should I shift my focus elsewhere? Or perhaps the next batch should be a bit of menswear and a bit of something else? Tell me your opinion using our very short survey. It’ll probably take all of 5 minutes and will give you a chance to win a $50 CAD gift certificate to our shop! The draw for the gift certificate will take place February 15th.

Fill out the survey now >


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Orange Leaves, Orange Pumpkins, Orange-haired Baby

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As it turns out, Fall is an excellent season for our new property. Our land is covered in many maple trees and the decorative plantings around our house feature showy decidous trees as well. Once the weather cooled and the leaves turned, even the rainiest of days was made brighter by the Fall display.

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The fire pit has really come into its own in the last couple of months. Matt had a lovely fire going all afternoon and evening when we hosted a big family Thanksgiving potluck several weekends ago.

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I was thrilled that everyone managed to make themselves comfortable around the fire on all manner of scavenged dining chairs and stumps. We brought out the appetizers and drinks and people passed a lovely couple of hours before dinner enjoying the warmth from both the fire and the October sunshine.

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Noah turned one this October (already!?) so the Thanksgiving feast also served as a bit of a birthday party for him and the other October babies in the family. As a birthday gift, my sister and her partner spent some time setting up a classic tire swing and she took this gorgeous photo of him enjoying it.

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Our chickens are fully grown now but, unfortunately, six of the eight turned out to be roosters. As a result, four of the roosters are now in the freezer which was a tough introduction to homesteading but necessary for the health and happiness of the two little hens. Now that the days are so short, I don’t think the hens will be inclined to lay their first eggs until the spring.

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Next year I hope to either buy two more hens or perhaps let one of our hens hatch her own eggs if she goes broody in the spring. Matt and I have to decide whether we are willing to face culling more roosters should the hatched chicks turn out to be male…at this point it seems that it would be more enjoyable to find some grown hens but I worry they won’t integrate happily with an existing flock. Does anyone have experience with integrating mature hens? I’d love some tips!

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As the weather becomes wetter and colder I am trying to keep a routine in place that has Noah playing and me working on the property daily. His new rain suit really helps with this but I think the biggest factor that will allow me to prep garden beds this winter will be his ability to walk.  I expect he’ll be walking (and running!) very soon! Right now he loves to walk outside while holding my hands but, understandably, is not interested in crawling around and exploring on his own like he does when indoors. The ground is wet and cold on his hands (and he whips gloves off within seconds of me wrestling them onto him). Once he’s walking he’ll have more independence and we can both play and work in the same area of the property. Am I way too optimistic in imagining this? Maybe I’ll just be busy chasing him at that point!

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As winter approaches we are fine tuning the operation of our big wood furnace and are thrilled that it can heat the house overnight. It is very cosy! We will be having an arborist over to fall a dead tree near the workshop. When he’s here I’ll ask him to limb a couple of the big cedar trees to give the trees below them a bit of space. I look forward to decorating the porch with boughs! I think the house will look so pretty bedecked with cedar in the snow!

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As per usual, I’ll finish this seasonal homestead update with a bit of Thread Theory news. We have a pattern launching soon (VERY soon!)! It really is any day now! Be the first to know and receive the special launch day discount by signing up for our newsletter.

I will be working on the next pattern instructions over the winter. The pattern is already mostly finished! I hope to launch this next one in early Spring 2020.

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Well, that’s it for now! Happy Halloween everyone! I hope yesterday included and perhaps this weekend includes pumpkins, Fall leaves and fireworks!


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Summer Days around the “Farm”

I wonder when I will feel comfortable calling our property a farm without giggling or adding quotations…One day I would love to refer to it as our homestead or farm without feeling like we are playing house but we aren’t there yet! In the meantime, playing house is a lot of fun!

July has brought us one step closer to my schemes and dreams of a bustling homestead though – our chickens have graduated from their brooder in our bathroom to free ranging and coop life! They are very obviously pleased with their new home, I was quite surprised by how obvious their happiness was when they moved in. They scampered, hopped and flapped their wings joyously the moment they entered the spacious coop and haven’t slowed their playful antics since!

Now that the chickens are running around our property I can’t wait to add more animals! I like listening to their chirps and awkward teenage voices crackling as Noah and I water the garden. So far I adore the routines created by caring for them. They won’t be laying until the Fall but just letting them in and out of the coop and checking their water is a very grounding and peaceful routine already. I wonder if I’ll feel the same way on cold and wet winter mornings? I think so…but you never know! Next spring we hope to add goats or a pig to our menagerie but I’ll try my best to hold off until then so that we can get used to raising chickens first and make sure we enjoy all aspects.

Aside from fixing up our coop for the chickens and enjoying their antics, July has been a busy month of visitors both two and four legged. It would seem our spacious property has resulted in us becoming the official dog-sitters for my family now, and our pup, Luki is quite pleased about that.

We’ve looked after my sister’s sweet dog (Luki’s one true love ) several times this June and July and now we are looking after my parent’s dog while they travel around Ireland for a month. Noah squeals with delight each time one of our visitors heads in his direction. He loves dogs!

We’ve also had quite a few overnight visits from Noah’s grandparents. Matt’s mom and dad keep spoiling us by bringing dinner ingredients and cooking for us which is such a treat!

We had a lovely time with my great aunts who came all the way from England. They cheered Noah on as he spent his first morning playing on the beach in the sand and grinning like mad as he went down the slide.

As you can see in the photo above, Noah was so comfortable and relaxed with his Great Great Auntie Edina!

I look forward to they day when our property will be a little more polished and set up for weekend visitors. I have dreams of running a small guest house and farm stand one day, but in the meantime, family and friends have been enjoying the fire pit that Matt and my sister built and our picnic table.

One day a flower garden, lounging area and a pond will add to our guest’s comfort. I love daydreaming about big landscaping plans as an occasional restful treat while Noah naps.

Right now guests just expect that relaxing will wait for later and seem glad to be put to work on whatever project we are currently focussed on!

Each visit my mom and dad arrive just fit to burst with excitement and energy to tackle the next big project. My Dad worked so hard in the scorching sun earlier this month to replace the workshop roof with Matt.

My garden, as I mentioned last homestead update, isn’t especially productive, but I wasn’t expecting it to be so since we had little to no time to prep beds when we moved in the spring.

I’ve laid out huge tarps in the main field and hope, once they’ve solarized (used the heat of the sun to kill the grass and weeds), I can lift them and plant a cover crop this Fall. In the spring I can turn the cover crop under with the help of the chickens and a tiller so that it will be ready for my first big vegetable garden. Once we have a pig and goats, I think they’ll be able to replace the work of the tiller each spring. I’m new to gardening out of raised beds though, so please give me your two cents if you have experience with a big victory garden style veggie plot!

Our computer broke earlier this week which just about had me selling Thread Theory (I’m joking but only just) because we thought we lost the only file that wasn’t backed up: The nearly completed instructions and pattern for our upcoming bag pattern release! When the computer died it seemed upon first inspection that our dual hard drives had not been backing files up as intended…well, two very long days of tinkering later, Matt saved Thread Theory and my sanity by not only fixing the computer but also saving the pattern and all of my hard work! So, if all goes well, the pattern will be headed to test sewers by the end of the day or perhaps by the end of the weekend. It’s very close! And, needless to say, Matt has added one more back up system so that this won’t be happening again. Phew…


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The workshop of Wray Parsons

Matt recently went to visit local woodworker, Wray Parsons, and picked up our latest order of beautiful lathe-turned sewing tools.

With our recent move we live even closer to Wray so it seemed like a great opportunity to forgo mailing the order and instead have a tour of his workspace and a chat.

Wray kindly agreed to me sharing photos of his workshop on the blog as I thought you might like to take a peek as well!

It is amazing to see the large size of the tools used to make Wray’s remarkably small and precise wooden tools. In the background of the photo above you can see his lathe used for turning the wood into it’s final shape, below you can see the jointer and planer used to create his blanks (the rectangles of wood ready to be turned).

He also has a bandsaw (below) to process material and cut intricate shapes. Beside the saw you can see an example of one the the burls that he works with.

All of these tools and a lot of skill and time go into making his precisely crafted wooden tools.

He uses a set of specialty chisels imported from England to create the smoothly functioning threads on his acorn thimble case.

His wood storage appeals to me:

His projects are so miniature and his woods is so precious that even the tiniest piece (what most woodworking shops would view as scrap) is carefully stored for a future project.

Wray’s wife has a long history of needle work so he consulted her for his original line of tools and frequently consults the shops who stock his tools when designing a new tools.

He’s also greatly inspired by historical needlework tools, his acorn tape measure (pictured above) and thimble case are modeled after the silver acorn thimble cases found in Victorian sewing boxes. The stem on the acorn twists to roll the tape back up! His soldier’s friends (pictured below) are modeled after wartime sewing kits that soldiers kept handy to mend their uniforms.

Whenever he sources blades, scissors or stuffing to complete his tools, he finds the best quality: His seam ripper blades are very hard and sharp Japanese steel, his thread snips are Italian, and the pin cushions are stuffed with local sheep’s wool to coat your pins in rust preventing lanolin.

Wray also showed Matt the heated greenhouse that he built for himself.

It has a coal fired stove inside the timber and glass structure which allows Wray to grow tomatoes well into the winter.

The raised beds are very substantial and you can see that his heating and watering set up is finely tuned. The greenhouse is so large he even grows fruit trees within it!

What an inspiration for our future greenhouse! We are a long ways off from having something so substantial but I can certainly dream!

Anyhow, back to his woodworking: In our latest order we added some darning mushrooms which we have not stocked for some time. I’m trying to focus on sewing related tools (and used to include these mushrooms in the knitting section of our shop) but they are too beautiful, useful and aligned with the growing movement of mending instead of buying new…they simply make sense to have in one’s sewing kit!

Well, I hope you found this peek at Wray’s workshop and tour of Wray’s tools intriguing! Noah and I plan to pick up our next delivery so I can have a closer look at that garden and greenhouse! Wray kindly sends us photos and updates by email quite often but it will be much nicer to chat in person regularly now we live so close.

View our selection of Wray’s sewing tools.


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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

I hope your final days of 2018 have been restful, peaceful and were full of time to sew!  We are so grateful for the many sewists who sew their Christmas gifts using Thread Theory patterns and for the enthusiastic support that you show for our little business all year long!  Thank you!

This year has been filled with many highlights for both Thread Theory and Matt and I in our personal life.

We’ve launched four menswear patterns:

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From left to right: Quadra Jeans, Sayward Raglan, Eastwood Pajamas, Fulford Jeans

Our baby, Noah, was born:

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And we’ve had the privilege to see our patterns sewn into many absolutely stunning garments!

Thread Theory Pattern makes

From left to right:

  1. Finlayson Sweater sewn by Jocelyn Buggie for her brother’s Christmas gift and shared on the Thread Theory Sewing Community Facebook page.
  2. Another Finlayson sewn by Kayla Kissane for her uncle as a Christmas gift and shared on the Facebook community page.
  3. A paisley Fairfield Button-up sewn by James Nacy and shared on the Facebook page – he altered the collar to become a large 70’s style one to suit his fabric choice.
  4. A Goldstream Peacoat sewn by Léa Provost for her father’s Christmas gift and shared via email.

Matt and I are so excited for the coming year.  We have a nice collection of patterns already drafted so that I can delve into instruction writing once little Noah and I have settled into a routine (we are getting close…as you can probably tell because I’ve actually managed to write a couple of blog posts lately!).  Since last year’s wallet patterns were such a success, the first pattern on my list to write instructions for is a bag.  Instead of a quick bag making project (as our wallets are), this is an involved project which is a lot of fun to sew!  I look forward to sharing the MANY features with you when the pattern is ready!

The rest of the waiting patterns are garments…but I won’t give away any hints about those yet 😀

Happy New Year!


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Welcome Baby Noah!

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I wasn’t sure I should post this on here but since I have so many family members following this blog, I have been receiving many enquiries as to whether I would introduce our new baby in a blog post!  I won’t be posting about him very often online (this blog is supposed to be about menswear sewing after all), but here is one of what I’m sure will be the occasional exception!  This is Noah, our baby boy, who arrived on October 19th.  He’s filled Matt and I with endless love!  We have been pleased to be surrounded by helpful and loving family who obviously feel the same way that we do about our little baby.

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To honour all the love our family has already given to Noah, this post is sort of a ‘handmade where’s Waldo’…can you spot the lovingly handmade items in each of these photos? As sort of a game I will refrain from telling you about the items within this post but will add a comment with the answers so you can check them out once you’ve had a chance to guess!

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As you can imagine, we are fairly busy with our new baby right now but Matt has been a super-dad so far and has been managing to feed me (while I feed Noah) and provide all of the customer service for Thread Theory.  If you have sent us an email lately or made an order that required shipping, it is likely Matt who you have been in touch with.  I’m grabbing the occasional 10 minutes of Thread Theory time here and there but am more or less on maternity leave at the moment (our jeans sew-along posts were pre-scheduled…don’t worry, I wasn’t sewing jeans while in the hospital!).  I hope to phase back in to accomplishing more Thread Theory work over the next couple of months as I am very excited to dive into the instructions for our next pattern.  The pattern is sitting on my shelf all drafted and ready to go and is proving to be a great incentive to get back to work once Noah and I have found our rhythm.

Until then, I look forward to connecting with you via the occasional blog post!  Happy sewing!